NBA Star Bryant Promotes “Big, In China” CampaignWhile China can’t yet compete with Japan or South Korea in terms of attracting Hollywood stars for ad campaigns, every year we see more western celebrities hawking brands for a Chinese audience. Recently, GAP China recruited several stars (including Usher, Diplo and Annie Leibovitz) for its “Let’s Gap Together” campaign, and in previous years we’ve seen western celebrities and athletes show up in advertisements for brands like fast fashion retailer ME&CITY (Orlando Bloom, Agyness Deyn, Wentworth Miller), shoe brands PEAK (Ron Artest) and Anta (Kevin Garnett), and automaker Chery (footballer Lionel Messi). While the efficacy of celebrity endorsements in China is questionable at best, with Chinese brands in particular looking to break away from the pack — and, in many cases, attempting to cultivate an image of being “foreign” brands — we will more than likely see non-Chinese celebrities showing up in more advertisements in coming years.
However, the latest brand to tap an international celebrity for a China-only advertisement isn’t a Chinese brand at all, but rather the Mercedes-owned, Taobao-sold automaker Smart. which recently cast NBA star Kobe Bryant in a nationwide commercial. Bryant is regularly seen in China taking part in charity initiatives for his Kobe Bryant China Fund (a partnership with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation), which raises money within China for education and health programs, and was named brand ambassador for Smart this February. In his Smart China advertisement, Bryant is seen maneuvering a Smart Brabus through traffic as he helps a Chinese woman pursue an art thief, who has stolen a painting by Chinese contemporary artist Fang Lijun.